Colorado and Utah - Red Dust

State: Colorado, Utah
Region: Colorado and Utah

An increasing body of scientific research indicates that windborne dust from disturbed desert soils is contributing to early snowmelt in Colorado. When the light from the sun comes in contact with tiny rock particles instead of plain snow, the dust is heated, making the snow melt earlier and more quickly.  Early snowmelt causes peak runoff to occur on average three weeks earlier than it would without the impact of dust, likely diminishing the amount of water available later in the season when it’s needed the most.

The Colorado Plateau – which includes the red rock wild lands of southeastern Utah – and the Great Basin are the likely major source of dust on snow in the Upper Colorado River Basin. While the existence of dust is a natural phenomenon, research shows that activities that destabilize soils, such as off-road vehicle use, grazing and oil and gas development, greatly increase the susceptibility of desert soils to wind erosion.


Learn more by viewing this multi-media presentation by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance